.FASTA File Extension

FASTA Sequence File

Developer David J. Lipman and William R. Pearson
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Category Data Files
Format Text

What is a FASTA file?

A FASTA file contains a record of nucleic acid sequences (such as DNA sequences) or protein sequences saved in the text-based FASTA format. It may store one or multiple sequences, which is why FASTA is sometimes referred to as the FASTA database format. Users can view and analyze FASTA files with DNA analysis software.

More Information
Screenshot of a .fasta file in GSL Biotech SnapGene 6
FASTA file open in GSL Biotech SnapGene 6

David J. Lipman and William R. Pearson created the FASTA format and released it in 1985. Many DNA apps have adopted support for the format because of its simplicity, making it one of the most common formats for transferring sequences between applications.

The FASTA format

FASTA files often start with a header line that may contain comments or other information. The rest of the file contains sequence data. Each sequence starts with a > character followed by the name of the sequence. The rest of the line describes the sequence, and the remaining lines contain the sequence itself.

NOTE: Files saved in the FASTA format may use various file extensions besides .fasta, such as .fas (.FAS files) and .fa (.FA files).

How to open a FASTA file

You can open a FASTA file with several DNA applications, such as GSL Biotech SnapGene (multiplatform), Genome Compiler (multiplatform), and Heracle BioSoft DNA Baser (Windows). For example, you can open a FASTA file with SnapGene by selecting File → Open Files....

Opening a FASTA file with a text editor

FASTA file open in Apple TextEdit 1
FASTA file open in Apple TextEdit 1

You can also open a FASTA file with a text editor, such as Microsoft Notepad (Windows) or Apple TextEdit (Mac). You can also open a FASTA file with source code editors. However, opening the FASTA file with a text editor or source editor will not natively display the sequence in the FASTA file like a DNA app.

When opened in a text editor or source code editor, you can view the sequence in the FASTA file and modify its properties. However, if you incorrectly edit the sequence, you may corrupt it.

How to convert a FASTA file

Various applications, such as GSL Biotech SnapGene and Heracle BioSoft DNA Baser, can convert FASTA files to other formats.

For example, SnapGene can convert FASTA files to the following formats:

  • .DNA - SnapGene DNA File
  • .SEQ - DNA Sequence Text File
  • .EMBL - EMBL Sequence Data File
  • .GBK - GenBank Data File
  • .TXT - Plain Text File
  • .JPG - JPEG Image
  • .PNG - Portable Network Graphic
  • .SVG - Scalable Vector Graphics File
  • .PDF - Portable Document Format
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Programs that open FASTA files

Updated October 13, 2022

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